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Three Must-Know Potty Training Tips

Potty training can be a roller coaster, but there are some definitely pitfalls to avoid.

If you are looking for potty training tips from a pro, you are in the right place! It seems that everyone has an opinion about potty training, but I'm going to give three of the most important tips you will ever hear.

Are you in the midst of potty training or perhaps about to start? I've put together what I consider to be three of the most important and essential potty training tips.

Don't rush to the toilet, to the candy jar, or to underwear. Those quick reward systems don't work nearly as well as you might think! You don't want to skip the most import processes that begin far before these do.

Is a child ready for potty training?

Potty training is actually quite complicated. It is a mental, physical, emotional, and physiological process!

That is a delicate balance! Sometimes potty training feels like a minefield, and other times it goes nice and smoothly. The great news is that this milestone is like many others -- it will happen! Children potty train at different ages, and we can avoid the grueling and horrific potty training stories to help set children up for success!

If a child is already interested in the toilet and using it, run with that, and this will all supplement and help with the process.

Potty Training Tips

1) The secret weapon!

I bet you didn't know there was a secret weapon to potty training. Don't run for skittles or timers!

One of the most essential or detrimental tools for a child is his or her pants! Surprised? Think of it this way. Every single child who is going to be potty trained needs to know how to pull his pants up and push them down. Mastering these skills opens up a whole new world of independence and success for these little learners.

In order for children to be able to use the bathroom by themselves, they need these important skills. Consider them the training wheels to potty training!

What types of outfits should you avoid during the preschool and potty training years? Onesies, overalls, and outfits that are not easy to push down. They only interfere and add frustration. Begin with pants that allow for as much independence as possible.

As adults it is easy to forget that pants are not so easy for little ones. When they require zipping or snapping, or both, it turns into a complex task. That's stress you don't need when a child has to use the toilet "right now."

Get comfortable clothes for your child that they can easily navigate themselves!

For girls, I recommend leggings, dresses, or bike shorts.

For boys, knit pants or shorts work great.

Fleece pants or active pants work wonderfully for boys and girls!

A huge bonus to getting a child to master his pants is that this helps develop the skills necessary for underpants as well! I love how seamlessly potty training flows when these steps have already been figured out instead of becoming a hindrance or requiring adult assistance.

Then to help children master those self-dressing skills, you can use boards that promote self-care skills. This is our favorite!

2) When constipation is in the picture, toilet training is out of the picture.

One of the most common problems among potty training children today is constipation! Constipation is a vicious cycle that teaches children to hold their bowels, and it can be a long, long process.

It completely wreaks havoc on a child's ability to feel the urge to use the bathroom, and it can cause more severe problems such as bowel obstructions or complicated urinary problems. Not to mention the emotional and behavioral issues that also arise. A child may try to hold it for days just to avoid the pain!

We lived through the desperation that a family goes through when a child has severe constipation. When one of my children was two-years-old I thought potty training would never be complete. The pee aspect was completely mastered for nearly six months before we got the constipation to match.

It was an 18 month constipation war that jumped back and forth from a medical condition to a behavioral issue. If a child is not producing a soft bowel movement daily (or most days), it is a sign of holding, which very quickly leads to constipation.

One of the absolute best resources for constipation, wetting, and UTIs is the book called It's No Accident written by a pediatric urologist. One of my friend calls it her potty training Bible.

Here is a great video about constipation and encopresis that children also love to watch!

3) Timers are only a quick fix.

I think back to the parents who I recommended timers to, and I literally cringe.

Admittedly, it can help produce results! But these results are short term. Sometimes a timer can be helpful for a child who needs help with reminders and getting into the habit of going to the bathroom. But proceed with caution when it comes to using timers.

I used to believe in the consistent 30-minute dinging reminder, and I prompted children for years. Then I had to take a step back and view how this impacted children long term in their potty training journey. I noticed a pattern among these children that stopped me cold in my tracks -- they were the children with the most accidents and regression!

Now that I look at the big picture, I feel so foolish about my shortsightedness. In reality, I was distracting them from their own ability to figure out when they needed to use the potty.

When we teach children to listen for a timer or to be told by an adult, we are working against their ability to hear their own physiological promptings. Instead, we need to help them listen to their own bodies.

Cues such as the "potty dance," gas, and stomach aches are all indications that their bodies are trying to tell them it's time. Children who learned to listen to the subtle messages from their bodies undoubtedly stand out compared to those who do not. They are the ones who almost never have accidents and who can take a new baby, a new school, or another big life change without regression.

Some children are naturally very good at listening to their bodies, while others need some extra help. There are some children who use the toilet regularly and still need the guidance of an adult to point out that they are holding their natural processes. If I smell a child passing gas, I'll respectfully and gently point that out and say "Amanda, I can tell that your body is trying to tell you that you need to go poo."

Potty training is a huge milestone and a wonderful step of independence for a child! Above all I encourage people to look at the individual child involved. Potty training is not a race or a competition, and it should never be rushed or hurried as that causes damaging effects that will appear later on.

I had very differing opinions about how to potty train once upon a time, and it wasn't until I saw the damage that my own philosophies of 10 years caused, that I decided that I needed to follow the patterns of child development, instead of what society introduced to me. To read more about my own potty training "epiphany," you can click here

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